The Least Common Denominator…. And the Charter Schools….

2014-12-02_10-01-49 Philadelphia public schools are in trouble. Not enough money. Overflowing classrooms. And the unkindest cut of all, more than one-third of its students, 70,000, are in charter schools, which Philadelphia has to pay for, but doesn’t control…. individuals are choosing away from us, simply because they don’t think that our schools are meeting the needs of our children…. So what we want to do is to become a part of that choice. Our survival depends on our ability to innovate, to think differently about how children are educated…. Some teachers might have given a lecture on brain development, but that’s not how things work at Science Leadership Academy. Here, kids learn by finding their own answers and working collaboratively on real-life projects…. SOURCE:  Philadelphia schools aim to innovate to escape crisis.

With this post I am going to tread where I probably don’t belong. I have no expertise in the field of education, I only know about my personal experience in the public school system and since that experience is almost 50 years ago it is probably buffered somewhat. But here goes anyway.

I can remember that for the most part I was bored during my public school education. It just seemed like I was rarely challenged academically. Things were just too easy for me. Yes, there were a couple of influential teachers that helped shape me but for the most part my public school experiences were less than fruitful.

Part of that problem was what I will call “The lowest common denominator”. That is gearing the educational experience to the student who has the most trouble learning. While making sure that  everyone understands a particular lesson before going on helps some but it also hinders others. Someone who “gets it” early on is somewhat stifled by that method. Yes, I know there are advanced classes in many school systems to allow everyone to be challenged at least part of the time but that was not an option in my small rural high school.

Charter schools just make sense to me. I wish I had them when I was in high school. It might have directed me to a more fulfilling higher education and future work life. After the fact I have come to realize that I was directed into the wrong field of endeavor. I’m sure my intellect and my insatiable questioning would have gone another route if I had been challenged more.

Charter schools just make sense to me. But what do you do with that kid who has no ambition to learn anything? The one who is just not interested? Somehow they too need to be challenged to think and better themselves.  I’m pretty sure a lot of the problem with these kids is parental guidance. Their parents just are not involved enough in giving them good examples or encouraging them to improve. Although I was not one, I’m sure being a parent is hard stuff, especially in today’s environment where for many a living wage is non-existent.  I’m not sure who said it but I agree with the thought that you need a license to drive a car but nothing is required to raise a kid.

Somehow we need a system that challenges everyone to their maximum potential.  Charter schools in that regard just makes sense to me…

4 thoughts on “The Least Common Denominator…. And the Charter Schools….

  • As an educator, I could not agree with you more. I helped charter a school in Flagstaff.
    It was formed by five sets of parents and three amazing community members. We bought the books from Dover books and worked through a mountain of paper. Neither of my kids attended, it was simply too “white” at the time. They ended up attending a multi racial/lingual school. My husband joined that faculty and chose teachers.
    Unfortunately, where my grandchild is, you have to join a lottery to be in a charter school. His neighborhood school is considered to be one of the best- with 75% of the students passing the state test with a 64% or higher. Talk about teaching to the bottom!
    He will be homeschooled until he can get into a charter. We cannot afford the Catholic ($7,000) or private ($15-21,000) yearly tuitions.
    Good public education,the great equalizer, is disappearing quickly. You may not have liked your education, but it was enough to get you from rural America to a good university. No longer is that a norm.


  • Charter schools are the current “hot” thing in education I guess. Minnesota opened the first charter school in 1991. Since then many have been started and been successful but many have closed. Charter schools are publicly funded but privately managed. Therein lies the problem. The rash of closed charter schools here was mostly due to mismanaged finances, misuse of federal funds, some abuse issues, and also failure to meet academic standards.
    My point is that charter schools have a long ways to go and should not be considered a silver bullet. They can have the same issues as public schools yet the accountability is not the same. They do not have to be open to public scrutiny as such can camouflage their weaknesses.
    Student dollars are drained to go to these autonomous entities, thereby weakening the public schools. We could end up with poor public and poor charter schools too.
    In general, I think we have over demonized teachers in the public schools, often in an effort to deflect our own short comings as parents and citizens. Public schools are not perfect, never have been, never will be. Reform and change is always needed and should be kept in the spotlight.
    But, in my humble opinion they are still the best thing for our huge and diverse population as a whole. Please choose your schools carefully.


    • Thanks for your comments Jane. I knew you would chime in here 🙂

      I don’t know if people intentionally demonize teachers in public schools, I know I never would!! They, like our police officers, are often asked to do impossible things with stingy budgets.

      The point of the post is that everyone is not created intellectually equal so we need different types of educational processes to meet the diversified needs. Public schools just don’t seem to be up to that task as they are currently formatted. Basic change is needed in the system in order to give the teachers the things they need to help all the students.


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